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For other uses, see Mischief (disambiguation).
H. Brückner, Mischief (1874)

Mischief or malicious mischief is the specific name for different criminal offenses in a number of different jurisdictions. While the wrongful acts will often involve what is popularly described as vandalism there can be a legal differentiation between the two. The etymology of the word comes from Old French meschief, which means "misfortune", from meschever, "to end badly".

In computer science and hacker jargon, mischief is a form of attack that clearly indicates the breach of the system and constitutes a form of injury or an infringement of rights, more specifically invasion of privacy, against which legal action can be taken to secure damages. Grey hat hackers often use mischief as a way to signal security breaches to system administrators.

Mischief is also a way for hackers to "prove" themselves to others. As an overt demonstration to other hackers of their skill in the use of force, these security breaches can be taken as a sign of criminal intent and may result in charges as serious as terrorism.[1] In this context, terroristic threat involves a threat to commit violence (the computer attack) communicated with intent to cause significant harm, inconvenience, or injury (the resulting breach) in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such harm, inconvenience, or injury. Brute force is associated with hacker "mischief".

Jurisdictions which have a specific offense of malicious mischief (with descriptions, if available) include the following.


Malicious mischief is an offence against the common law of Scotland. It does not require actual damage to property for the offence to be committed, financial damage consequential to the act is sufficient, unlike vandalism which requires actual damage to property to form the offence, the latter being defined by section 52 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995; the two are different offences.

United States[edit]

In United States criminal law, mischief is an offense against property that does not involve conversion. It typically involves any damage, defacement, alteration, or destruction of property. Common forms include vandalism, graffiti, or some other destruction or defacement of property other than arson. Governed by state law, criminal mischief is committed when a perpetrator, having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he/she has such right, intentionally damages property of another person, intentionally participates in the destruction of property of another person, or participates in the reckless damage or destruction of property of another person.[2] Criminal mischief is usually a misdemeanor.


  1. ^ "Terroristic Threat Law & Legal Definition". Definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 
  2. ^ "reckless legal definition of reckless. reckless synonyms by the Free Online Law Dictionary". Legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of mischief at Wiktionary